Since the release of the modern Fiat 500 in 2007 and its performance counterpart the 2016 Fiat 500CAbarth AT Cabriolet afterwards, all models were equipped with 5 speed manuals as standard. Obviously enthusiasts would prefer a manual over an auto but somehow the 2016 automatic outperforms the sought-after manual. What sorcery is this?
Nothing Much Has Changed for the 2016 Fiat 500CAbarth AT Cabriolet Aside From an Interior Refresh
Outside, it’s basically indistinguishable from any other 2016 Fiat 500CAbarth AT Cabriolet. Dual exhaust tips, performance rims, and a throaty exhaust that doesn’t sound like it belongs to such a tiny car. What separates the cabrio variant is the soft top that gracefully accordions open to let more of the outside world in to the tiny car. Under the tiny hood is a 1.4-liter SOHC turbo. This is then mated to a FWD six-speed automatic with paddle shifters for the AT cabrio featured in this review.
On the inside however is where the 2016 refresh is apparent. Gone are the traditional gauge clusters on the binnacle and is replaced with a 7-inch HD TFT screen that will serve as a multi-function display. Sure it might sway some purists but a welcome change nonetheless. The centre console finally gets modernized with Bluetooth support and USB ports.
Now on to the drive. Why is the auto better? For starters, Abarth’s engineers tuned the 1.4-liter differently to pair better with the 6-speed auto. The result is 3 horsepower less from 160, but an increase in torque by 13lb-ft making for 138lb-ft of torque. The additional grunt is enough to make a difference in making the tiny car outrun its manual brother in a drag race. Aside from that, it still retains the superb handling of the original Abarth; after all, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Even on the cabriolet variant that’s missing the additional structural rigidity of a roof, the 500 Abarth is rock solid even on the tightest of manoeuvres.
For practical use, it’s tiny and could fit the tightest of parking spaces. The small engine can give decent fuel economy when not driving aggressively. The cabriolet mechanism is smooth as butter and free from sound or water leaks. Handling the tiny car is sharp and the engine is very eager to rev.
As a tiny city car, space is indeed an issue. It only seats 4 people comfortably while 5 could get cramped in long trips. Trunk space is obviously limited. Cruising on an auto with the top down could get annoying with the loud engine.
The auto transmission of the 2016 Fiat 500CAbarth AT Cabriolet does take away a little of the engaging drive but the paddle shifters and better performance make up for it. While it inherits the common issues of a tiny car, what matters most for this performance car is the driving experience especially on track or on open roads.